World Music Lovers are still mourning; Papa Wemba is gone!!
It's heading to about 2 month since he past on but there was so much to this man that I could not pass up an opportunity to pen about him and the recognition he brought to Congo. His pioneering blend of African, Cuban and Western sounds became one of Africa's most popular music styles. But you can’t talk about Papa Wemba without talking about 3 things:
1) His very soft angelic Rumba voice that transcended age: Originally, the term rumba was used as a synonym in northern Cuba for "party". However various forms of rumba spread globally. America had a version and so did Africa by the 1940s and it was the likes of Papa Wemba who helped introduced the world to Congolese-Rumba with hits like: Maria Valencia, Est-ce que, Show Me the Way and my favorite Proclamation. Regardless of how old you were his music transcended generations. I could watch videos from the 80s with my parents and my parents could watch his new stuff that he had released more recently with me. In fact even before his death there were all kinds of renditions of his songs. Alongside is one track that was a especially popular in East Africa. Rail on as done by Oliver & Maryam.
2) His Pride: One thing I can say about Papa Wemba, he loved and praised being Congolese. He made being Congolese cool for some of us younger folks. A lot of Africans my age can identify various icons that helped us fall in love with our heritage and being African especially if you consumed all the foreign media that came into Africa or happened to migrate overseas. For me, it was Papa Wemba. He embraced every aspect of being Congolese. He believed in his people and wanted to see Congolese people rise to the top. He was even accused of smuggling people into Europe through his band when he went to perform in hopes of giving them access to a better life. Keyword here though is ”accused”.
Papa Wemba not only promoted that we try to pursue a better life, he also spoke out against the government. He gave our people HOPE by being our spokesperson and challenging a government that did not always do what was best for it's citizens and thus I like to call him the peoples' musician.
Repose en paix (Rest in Peace (and Musical Inspiration) Papa Wemba and thank you for sharing your amazing gift with the world.
Ms. Tshimanga is a guest blogger for Love's Hangover Creations who hails from Kinshasa, DRC. She connected with the Love's Hangover Team at their 5th year anniversary bash held in Downtown Chicago, hosted by the Afrodisiac Crew on December 12th which is a public holiday in Kenya in celebration of when Kenya became a republic. For more of her work and voice in ink, you can follow her on Twitter.